LSU escapes with 5-3 win over Nicholls

Jared Foster’s hitting slump ended Tuesday night.

A few LSU players started one.

LSU mustered just five hits and had to use a host of solid relief performances to escape with a 5-3 win over Nicholls State in a tight duel at Alex Box Stadium.

“I was hoping we’d swing the bat a little bit better,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “At the end of the day, we scratched a few across and executed a couple of things.”

Despite some rough patches, starter Brady Domangue had his longest outing of the season at five innings, and the Tigers (15-2) got just enough offense to slip past the Colonels (8-9) three days before Southeastern Conference play begins with a top-10 showdown at Vanderbilt.

LSU struggled against five Nicholls pitchers and led just 3-2 until the seventh inning in a sluggish night at the plate. Eleven straight Tigers were retired starting with the second out of the second inning, and seven of those flew out.

“They did a good job of throwing strikes and we were a little bit too amped up, to pumped up to hit the ball,” second baseman Kramer Robertson said. “We manufactured a few runs.”

Colonel pitchers issued three walks and hit two, while their infield committed two errors.

In the seventh, LSU got the first two on via hit batter and error, and Sean McMullen and Alex Bregman followed with RBI singles.

Foster was the bright spot for an LSU lineup that had its fewest hits in nine games.

Foster, who began the season as the cleanup hitter before slipping out of the lineup, started in left field. It was just his second start since Feb. 23.

His RBI double in the second inning gave LSU a 3-1 lead and shattered a hitting skid that dated back nearly a month.

Foster was 0 for his last 12 at-bats before the shot to right field easily advanced him to second base.

“It was good, finally get that out of the way,” Foster said of the hit. “Keep chugging along and fight through it. Can’t give up.” Foster hadn’t had a single since a Feb. 19 game at Southeastern Louisiana. He found out he’d be in the lineup when arriving to the park Tuesday.

Mainieri gave the former walk-on quarterback at LSU another shot to show what he illustrated in pre-season.

Foster started the first three games of the season, the first two in the No. 4 hole behind Bregman. He was 1 for 13 over the opening weekend.

That double now has him feeling good.

“I haven’t really lost confidence,” he said. “Just got to keep working. It’s all going to come back.”

Domangue, in his second start and fifth appearance, allowed five hits and two runs.

He misfired on a pickoff attempt, couldn’t get to a pop-up bunt and then had a sharply hit grounder smack against his foot.

Domangue is being converted from a reliever to a starter, a process that began with a three-inning start last week against Sacred Heart.

Domangue, a Houma native, grew up playing baseball with about six players from Nicholls.

“Coach talked to me to see if it was a problem. I said, ‘No, it’s another team. I don’t mind pitching against anybody,” he said. “It was fun tonight. I think I was just a little tense in the beginning and loosened up towards the end.” LSU used four relievers. Zac Person and Kurt McCune pitched scoreless innings. Parker Bugg allowed three hits and a run, and Joe Broussard got his third save.

Foster, meanwhile, broke that nagging slump. He also fired a ball from left field to second base, putting out Leo Vargas who was trying to stretch an eighth-inning RBI single into a double.

Mainieri said Foster may get the start in this weekend’s conference-opening series at Vanderbilt, a showdown between two consensus top-10 clubs.

Lagniappe

Andrew Stevenson, in his final at-bat in the eighth inning, extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a two-out triple to right-center field. He was left stranded at third after Foster struck out. … Bregman extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the seventh inning.